26th Feb 2011
AirAsia have 2 daily flights to Ho Chi Minh. What does that tells you? Now that "everyone can fly", Vietnam is fast becoming a popular destination for Malaysians. Cycling tourism though is very much at its infancy stage.
Having travelled several times with a bike as a primary luggage, I have experienced several pricing policies which had baffled me. We had 6 bike boxes/bags to check in and we were told that the surcharge is RM70 per box up to 20kg in weight. It used to be RM50 with 15kg limit and an additional RM20 per kg after the first 15kg.
The new rate though seems to work in my favor, as my bike usually weighs in at 17kg. That would have cost me RM90 under the old rate
The very first time I flew with my bike to Padang in 2009, I think it was RM40 and NO weight limit. Well, at least that was what the check-in staff told me. So, upon my return a week later, I had stuffed most of my heavy items inside my bike bag. Smart thinking. At the ticketing counter in Padang airport, the ticketing clerk weighed my bike bag and I had to pay in excess of RM200 for additional weight beyond 15kg! I saw no sense in arguing with them.
Our flight was scheduled at 1830 hrs. Time was on our side as we settled in at the waiting lounge. Wan Sabri (known as Pak Wan to his Gedebe team) was decked in the familiar Burberry checkered shirt.
So, was it a coincidence Pak Wan? Well, you are after all a Vietnamese veteran. Ha...ha...
Trust Pak Wan to handle the flight booking and we would be assured of meals on board the flight. Pre-booked, our Nasi Lemak were delivered well before other passengers could place their meal orders. That would be our early dinner as the plane touched down in the early hours of the night.
Hamdan and Suhami arrived several hours earlier on the first flight. They would have a long wait for our arrival. Pre-arranged, Pak Wan's former staff was on hand to receive us and have arranged for transport to take us and our luggage to Bien Hoa, a town outside Ho Chi Minh. Bien Hoa is 30kms outside and we would start our tour from there. It was a wise decision.
The first thing to do upon checking-in at the hotel was to re-assemble the bike, ready for an early ride the following day. Like experienced tourers, every one knew what to do with their respective bikes. With tools at the ready, the bikes were ready within about an hour.
This 5-day ride would be a supported trip. Pak Wan has arranged for a 16-seater van and a lovely tour guide to add some "flowers" to an otherwise male-dominated trip. The guide introduced herself as Ms Linh, but not before long, she became "Siti".
The van carried the luggage and the supplies. The van also acts as the transport to ferry our bikes back to Ho Chi Minh at the end of the trip. Our 5-day ride would end in a famous coastal city of Nha Trang. From there we would fly back to HCM.
So, with all arrangements done, thanks to Pak Wan, the next thing to do was to catch some sleep, ready for the start of the ride tomorrow.